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HBO Sticks It to Netflix, and So Can Others -- If Their Brands Are Big Enough

The HBO Go app lets HBO subscribers view every episode of every HBO show ever made. It's set to come out on May 2, and it will probably show that some TV outlets may benefit by snubbing Netflix, namely by reaping more subscribers and keeping greater content control.

But smaller channels -- read, almost anyone who isn't HBO -- are still in the lurch, as most won't be able to convince their viewers to download a separate app. That's a losing proposition for consumers, anyway -- who wants to follow television by downloading or subscribing to individual channels?

HBO previously said it would not make its shows available for Netflix Streaming, claiming that Netflix's all-you-can-eat buffet devalued HBO's programming. Of course, HBO Go is offering the same thing, but HBO itself will reap the benefits. Netflix negotiates flat deals with content providers.

Furthermore, these Netflix deals are for a set period of time, usually years. HBO couldn't change the terms if it wanted to. With HBO Go, it can adjust based on conditions -- for instance:

  • If it wants to release the app on another platform, such as BlackBerry (BBI) or Palm.
  • If it wants to begin charging for particular content within the app. For instance, new programming, like the popular Game of Thrones, may cost extra.
  • If it wants to add commercials, even just an in-house ad for other HBO programs.
The big caveat here is that only a channel with HBO's high-quality inventory could pull this off. The broadcast networks are out, as with a few exceptions they don't own their shows. Anyone else who wants to try needs a substantial library of both new and iconic older shows. HBO, for instance, has True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Sex and the City, Band of Brothers and much, much more. That's a tough lineup to match, let alone beat.

AMC, hot off The Walking Dead, Mad Men and the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad, might be a prime candidate for its own app. Showtime (which, full disclosure, is owned by CBS, the corporate master of BNET) might be able to pull it off on the strength of Dexter, Weeds and the Borgias, as could, just maybe, FX (Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me, The Shield).

Just about anyone else? You're probably better off submitting to Netflix than going it alone.

Photo courtesy of ElvertBarnes // CC 2.0
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